April 15, 2010
Theodore Dalrymple: When Freedom Isn’t Free- In Britain, compulsory virtue stifles individual liberty
April 15, 2010
Liberal reformers, who might once have wished to extend the realm of liberty, now wish to restrict it in the name of compulsory political virtue.
There was a perfect recent illustration of this in Britain. An evangelical Christian couple, the Wilkinsons, ran a bed-and-breakfast business in a place called Cookham. They refused a middle-aged homosexual couple, Michael Black and John Morgan, accommodation because they believed that homosexuality was wrong; it is condemned in the Bible…
The depressing, and perhaps sinister, aspect of the public commentary on the case is how largely it has ignored the question of freedom. For liberals, it seems, any trampling on freedom or individual conscience is now justified if it conduces to an end of which they approve. Thus liberalism turns into its opposite, illiberalism.
April 15, 2010
View From Canada: America is angry- Crazed militias. Grassroots revolt. A capital at war. The country is tearing itself apart.
April 15, 2010
Late last week, as families across the U.S. prepared for Easter, gubernatorial staff in state capitals across the U.S. were busy dealing with a strange homegrown security threat. An organization calling itself the Guardians of the Free Republics, according to its website committed to the “behind-the-scenes peaceful” dismantling of the U.S. government “without controversy, violence or civil war,” had sent letters to all 50 governors telling them to resign within three days or face removal. The demand was part of a “Restore America Plan,” launched, said the group on its website, after “consultation with high-ranking members of the United States armed forces.”
Part of a “sovereign citizenship” fringe in the U.S. that repudiates government and such modern realities as taxes, the Guardians of the Free Republics argues that “illicit corporations” usurped the U.S. federal government in 1933, and refers to the Internal Revenue Service as a “foreign bank cartel.” Its plan seeks a fundamentalist return to the American constitution and an end to both the “foreclosure nightmare” and the horrors of Department of Motor Vehicles registration, which the group refers to as a “hijacking of automobile ownership.” While FBI investigators said they did not believe the letters themselves were threatening, they did worry the group’s anti-government message might spur others to violence.
No wonder. So much has the U.S. surrendered to its anxieties over the last 18 months, to caustic political division and wild conspiracy theory, that the surreal concerns of the Guardians of the Free Republics can sound almost mainstream. Oddball debates over the birthplace of Barack Obama—who so-called “birthers” charge is ineligible to be president because he was born in Kenya or Indonesia rather than Hawaii—his religion, and the depth of his relationship with former Weatherman radical Bill Ayers, have collided with the recession’s near-double-digit unemployment and substantive policy debates over industry bailouts, stimulus spending and health care, to trigger an angry grassroots conservative movement almost without parallel in the U.S. Made up of anti-government, anti-tax and anti-abortion agitators, it is now opposed by a Democratic party newly galvanized by its successful passage of health care reform.
The result, with Republican politicians cowed into moving ever farther to the right by pundits like Fox News host Glenn Beck, talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh, and activists from so-called “Patriot” groups and the burgeoning Tea Party movement, has been toxic rhetoric and rabid polarization in Washington, divisions arguably even more marked than under George W. Bush. “In terms of partisan conﬂict, we’ve never really seen anything like this and it’s really shocking for a country that by and large has hung its hat on moderation—compromise between conservatives and liberals,” says Marc Hetherington, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. “If you take a look at data in terms of the divisions between Republicans and Democrats specifically, you’d have to go back to Reconstruction in the 20 or 30 years after the Civil War.”
No doubt because the party has suffered two consecutive election routs—the mid-term of 2006 and the presidential vote in 2008—much of the bad behaviour has come from the GOP side. Remember South Carolina Republican congressman Joe Wilson bellowing “You lie” at the President during his speech to a joint session of Congress last September? Or Texas Republican congressman Randy Neugebauer calling pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak “baby-killer” after Stupak changed his mind and voted for health care reform, passing it? Democrats have arguably countered the Republicans with condescension if not anger, and with majorities in both the House and Senate, they have left the jibes to sympathetic pundits. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow devoted a lengthy item to ridiculing support for the Tea Party movement as “teabagging,” an act more often tittered about on HBO’s Sex and the City than referenced in political discourse. New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman allowed that “Republicans have become embarrassing to watch,” adding of his own discretion: “It doesn’t feel right to make fun of crazy people.”
….Leading the charge on the right is the Tea Party, whose protesters have adopted Obama iconography, featuring the President with a red joker smear across his mouth and white face paint; the effect—a demonic Al Jolson—is disturbingly reminiscent of blackface minstrelsy. Alternatively, he is given a Hitler moustache. Both images are in keeping with Harris polling conducted early in March that said 42 per cent of Tea Party supporters believe Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did,” and that 25 per cent believe “he may be the Antichrist.”
April 15, 2010
IMAGINE that the world consists of 20 men and 20 women, all of them heterosexual and in search of a mate. Since the numbers are even, everyone can find a partner. But what happens if you take away one man? You might not think this would make much difference. You would be wrong, argues Tim Harford, a British economist, in a book called “The Logic of Life”. With 20 women pursuing 19 men, one woman faces the prospect of spinsterhood. So she ups her game. Perhaps she dresses more seductively. Perhaps she makes an extra effort to be obliging. Somehow or other, she “steals” a man from one of her fellow women. That newly single woman then ups her game, too, to steal a man from someone else. A chain reaction ensues. Before long, every woman has to try harder, and every man can relax a little.
Real life is more complicated, of course, but this simple model illustrates an important truth. In the marriage market, numbers matter. And among African-Americans, the disparity is much worse than in Mr Harford’s imaginary example. Between the ages of 20 and 29, one black man in nine is behind bars. For black women of the same age, the figure is about one in 150. For obvious reasons, convicts are excluded from the dating pool. And many women also steer clear of ex-cons, which makes a big difference when one young black man in three can expect to be locked up at some point.
Removing so many men from the marriage market has profound consequences. As incarceration rates exploded between 1970 and 2007, the proportion of US-born black women aged 30-44 who were married plunged from 62% to 33%. Why this happened is complex and furiously debated. The era of mass imprisonment began as traditional mores were already crumbling, following the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the invention of the contraceptive pill. It also coincided with greater opportunities for women in the workplace. These factors must surely have had something to do with the decline of marriage.
But jail is a big part of the problem, argue Kerwin Kofi Charles, now at the University of Chicago, and Ming Ching Luoh of National Taiwan University. They divided America up into geographical and racial “marriage markets”, to take account of the fact that most people marry someone of the same race who lives relatively close to them. Then, after crunching the census numbers, they found that a one percentage point increase in the male incarceration rate was associated with a 2.4-point reduction in the proportion of women who ever marry. Could it be, however, that mass incarceration is a symptom of increasing social dysfunction, and that it was this social dysfunction that caused marriage to wither? Probably not. For similar crimes, America imposes much harsher penalties than other rich countries. Mr Charles and Mr Luoh controlled for crime rates, as a proxy for social dysfunction, and found that it made no difference to their results. They concluded that “higher male imprisonment has lowered the likelihood that women marry…and caused a shift in the gains from marriage away from women and towards men.”
April 15, 2010